Just a little update regarding the safety car incident of Lewis Hamilton's McLaren in Australia. According to the BBC, the Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes team have been invited to appear in a meeting before the FIA World Motor Sport Council on the 29th of April in Paris. The FIA say that McLaren will have to answer charges relating to a breach of the International Sporting Code. In brief, the charges are basically that when the race stewards of the Australian Grand Prix called both McLaren and Toyota to a hearing after the race regarding an incident where Jarno Trulli's Toyota overtook Lewis Hamilton's McLaren under safety car conditions, McLaren deliberately misled the stewards by stating that Hamilton did not intentionally let Trulli go past, neither did Hamilton have any team orders to do so. In other words, what McLaren said meant that Trulli wrongly overtook Hamilton under safety car conditions and neither Hamilton nor McLaren had anything to do with it. At the end of this hearing, the stewards gave Trulli a 25-second time penalty for overtaking under safety car conditions.
When McLaren was called to a second hearing by the same race stewards just a week later, the Woking based team still stood by their original statement and maintained that they had nothing to do with Trulli's overtaking. However, playing the clips of the radio chatter that took place between Lewis Hamilton and his McLaren team during the safety car was out proved that it was quite clearly McLaren team orders because of which Hamilton slowed down to let Trulli go past, something McLaren had not told the stewards about and in fact stating quite the opposite denying any such team orders. This is why Lewis Hamilton and McLaren were disqualified from the Australian Grand Prix and Toyota's Jarno Trulli was reinstated to third. On the part of the FIA World Motor Sport Council, this is a very serious breach of the International Sporting Code and depending on the gravity of the situation, they can impose any penalty on McLaren with no maximum limit.
What happened on the track was that Jarno Trulli made a mistake at a corner and went wide off the track. As the safety car was out at the time, all the cars were obviously running pretty close to each other and at a slow speed. When Trulli went wide, Hamilton who was just behind him, had to go past as he could not have come to a standstill on the track, waiting for Trulli to recover, as obstructing the track is both dangerous and illegal. Now that is totally fine and what Hamilton did was perfectly legal as well, and he knew that. But his team, and in particular technical director Dave Ryan at the time did not want to take any chances and thought that what Hamilton did was wrong. So he ordered Hamilton to give back the third place to Trulli, and thus correcting the mistake of Hamilton overtaking Trulli under the safety car, or as McLaren thought. After the race, when Dave Ryan realised that Hamilton was actually right and did not need to give back the third place to Trulli, and feeling sorry that he had cost his team a potential podium finish, he decided to keep quiet about the team order to let Trulli go past. He also convinced Hamilton to back him up on this which Hamilton did.
After this incident came out in the open, Hamilton came clean with an official press conference, apologising to everyone for this incident and also blaming it on orders given by Dave Ryan. Ryan was obviously sacked by McLaren but as far as the FIA are concerned, the inquiries are far from over although Lewis Hamilton will probably be spared of any further consensus, as he came clean with the whole incident. So as some people have called it, the 'lie-gate' saga, there is still possibly a lot more to come from the FIA.
Among other news, we all know how this has been the worst start to the season since 1992 for the Scuderia Ferrari-Marlboro team. In a long crisis meeting at the company's Maranello headquarters, president Luca di Montezemolo has demanded that his team rapidly improve their performance to get them to the place they deserve, which is at the front of the grid and not the back. With over 16 constructors' titles and the oldest team left in the sport, the Italian giant first envisioned by Enzo Ferrari hold more records than any other team in Formula 1. But this season, Ferrari is yet to score a single point at the end of the first two races which is mainly down to not having one of the fastest cars on the grid and also making some silly strategic decisions. It is quite clear that their fight with McLaren last season, where they kept concentrating on getting every last bit of pace out of the F2008 car until the very last race, had meant that they started development on the new F60 much later than most other teams. As a result, the F60 still has enormous room for development and improvement, but with such a poor start the only question is that if the car will improve soon enough. It was a similar case for McLaren as well though, which is why they are struggling for pace as well. But both these teams need to set aside their arch-rivalry at the moment and look at other teams such as the likes of Brawn, Williams, Red Bull, Toyota and BMW all or most of whom seem to have a quicker car than McLaren or Ferrari.
But even as a Ferrari fan, I cannot see how they can expect to contend for the constructors' or the drivers' title this year, given that the Brawns, Toyotas and Red Bulls seem to be so far ahead of them. Instead of working day and night and coming fifth in the constructors' championship, I will rather see Ferrari start early development on next year's car and bring back the glory days! Although with all the surprises we have had already, this season might still have a few more surprises up its sleeve!